About This Artwork

Andy Warhol
American, 1928-1987

Mao, 1972

Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
448.3 x 346.7 cm (176 1/2 x 136 1/2 in.)
No inscription.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize and Wilson L. Mead funds, 1974.230

© 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The influential Pop artist Andy Warhol cast a cool, ironic light on the pervasiveness of commercial culture and contemporary celebrity worship. Early in his career, he began to utilize the silkscreen process to transfer photographic images to canvas: images of mass-produced consumer products and Hollywood film stars are among his most recognizable subjects. In this example from his Mao series, Warhol melded his signature style with the scale of totalitarian propaganda to address the cult of personality surrounding Chinese ruler Mao Zedong (1893–1976). Nearly 15 feet tall, this towering work mimics the representations of the political figure that were ubiquitous throughout China. In contrast to the photographic nature of the image, garish colors were applied like makeup to Mao’s face. Ultimately, the portrait shows Warhol at his most painterly, rendering Mao, an enemy of individualism, in a brazenly personal style.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Musee Galliera, Andy Warhol Mao, Feb. 23–Mar. 18, 1974, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, Seventy-First American Exhibition, June 15–Aug. 11, 1974, cat. 91 (illustration is of a different version).

Art Institute of Chicago, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, June 3–Aug. 13, 1989, cat. 347 (partial view), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989 (not shown at additional venues).

Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum, long-term loan for inaugural installation, Jan. 1994–Mar. 1997.

Mexico City, Fundacion Jumex Arte Contemporaneo, Andy Warhol. Dark Star, June 1–Sept. 17, 2017.

Publication History

Nick Baldwin, 'Super-Realism’ at Chicago,” Des Moines Register, July 7, 1974 (ill).

Douglas Davis, “Summing Up the Season,” Newsweek, July 1, 1974, p. 73 (ill.)

J. A., “American Art ’74: It Defies Classification,” Milwaukee Journal, August 4, 1974 (ill).

Bill Marvel, “Today’s Trend Is No Trend—Fun for Artists, if Not Critics,” Art Picture, August 17, 1974.

Hilton Kramer, “Art: Esthetic Smorgasbord in Chicago,” New York Times, July 6, 1974 (ill.)

Alan G. Artner, “Cabbages, 'Curve,’ and Warhol’s Mao in American Closeup,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 4, 1974.

Anne Rorimer, Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1973, (Bulletin of Art Institute of Chicago, 69, 3 (May–June 1975), pp. 4–7 (ill).

“Big Maoist Influence at the Art Institute,” Chicago Magazine, July 1978, p. 16 (ill).

Hilton Kramer, “Art: Whitney Shows Warhol Works,” New York Times, November 23, 1979.

Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings at The Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/ Little, Brown, 1988), p. 191. 2d ed. (Art Institute of Chicago/Hudson Hills Press, 1999), p.158.

Charles Stuckey, "Warhol in Context," in The Work of Andy Warhol, Discussions in Contemporary Culture, 3, ed. Gary Garrels (Seattle: Bay Press, 1989), p. 4.

David Bourdon, Warhol/David Bourdon (Harry N. Abrams, 1989), pl. 248 (partial view).

Lisa Stein, “Seeing Beyond the Must-sees,” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2003 (ill).

Ownership History

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, and Knoedler Gallery, New York, by 1974; sold, Castelli Gallery, to the Art Institute, 1974.

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